Tryon, N.C. – The 2017 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships sponsored by Deloitte wrapped up Sunday with Grade IV athlete Angela “Annie” Peavy and Royal Dark Chocolate crowned National Champions. Grade I athlete Margaret McIntosh and Heros earned Reserve National Champion honors. Sunday’s FEI Freestyle Tests accounted for the final 20% of the overall championship scores with the first 80% split equally between Friday’s FEI Team Test and Saturday’s FEI Individual Test. Athletes turned in high-quality performances in front of the ground jury of Elke Ebert (GER), Carlos Lopes (POR), and Adrienne Pot (USA).
National Champion and 2016 Paralympian Peavy (Wellington, Fla.) and Rebecca Reno’s nine-year-old Oldenburg mare, Royal Dark Chocolate, had an extraordinary weekend, placing second in the Grade IV FEI Team Test with a 69.375%, finishing first in the Grade IV FEI Individual Test with a 70.122%, and winning the Grade IV FEI Freestyle Test with the highest score of the show, a 76.458%. Performing to the music from the French musical “Chocolat” for their Freestyle test, the combination ended with a total score of 71.090%, earning them the title of champion. Peavy and “Coco” have a relatively new partnership but excelled this weekend.
“I was very pleased with her this whole weekend, but especially today because we have been developing our Freestyle, and at each show it changes just a little,” said Peavy. “The music excites her a little bit, but today she felt just right on with me, excited for the music but listening to every aid. She is used to the arena now, so we could just go and show everyone what we could do. We have only had [the Freestyle test] for a month or two now, so I have only ridden it a handful of times. I was nervous, but riding it was the most fun for me. The music started, and she just felt right on with every transition and with the music, so, for me, it was definitely the most exciting ride of the weekend.”
Reserve National Champions McIntosh (Reading, Pa.), another 2016 Paralympic team member, and her Heros, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, also have a very new partnership, coming to the National Championships on a leap of faith and finishing on an overall score of 70.747%.
“I didn’t know what to expect here today,” said McIntosh. “I bought Heros in June and rode her for a little while in England with Michel and Mette Assouline. She was imported at the end of July and spent three weeks in quarantine, so this was a leap of faith coming here. Heros improved with every test and has been a model of exemplary behavior. This was an old freestyle that I have ridden many times with my last horse, so coming into the ring to ride it felt like putting on an old shoe. Heros just fit into the right place and seems to enjoy the music a lot.”
Reserve National Champions Margaret McIntosh and Heros McIntosh and Heros won the Grade I FEI Team Test on Friday with 70.476%. They placed second in the Grade I FEI Individual Test with a 70.475% and first again in Sunday’s Grade I FEI Freestyle Test with a 71.833%.
Laurietta Oakleaf (Coatesville, Pa.) and her 13-year-old Friesian stallion Niekele Fan Busentiz placed third in the 2017 USEF Para-Equestrian National Championships sponsored by Deloitte with their consistent performances, ending on an overall score of 69.649%. The combination won all three of their tests over the weekend, with a 69.899% in the Grade II FEI Team Test, a 68.529% in the Grade II FEI Individual Test, and ending with a 71.389% in the Grade II FEI Freestyle Test. She and Niekel Fan Busentiz had been together since the stallion was six months old. Oakleaf handled most of his training and they began competing seriously in 2015.
“His strongest test was today,” said Oakleaf. “We got him a little more round in the back and a little more through in the bit. He had a little bit more push of the hind end today. I think it was about consistency and each day asking for the same thing and adjusting or changing what we needed. I was really proud of him today. He had a really good test.”
Remaining 2017 USEF Para-Equestrian National Championship sponsored by Deloitte placings were as follows:
Fourth place: Roxanne Trunnell and NTEC Daytona Beach with an overall score of 69.602%
Fifth place: Riley Garrett and Piston with an overall score of 67.818%
Sixth place: Katie Jackson and Royal Dancer with an overall score of 67.569%
Seventh place: Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 with an overall score of 67.240%
Eighth place: Mary Jordan and Rubicon 75 with an overall score of 66.904%
FEI Freestyle Tests
In the Grade V FEI Freestyle Test, it was a close contest. In the end, Mary Jordan (Wells, Maine), performing with a smile on her face, and her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Rubicon 75 won the class with a score of 70.458%. Katie Jackson (Austin, Texas) and Royal Dancer, Julia Handt and Rachel Zent’s 12-year-old Westphalian gelding, placed second on a score of 70.167%.
Peavy and Royal Dark Chocolate maintained their first-place position, winning the Grade IV FEI Freestyle Test, scoring a 76.458%. Pamela Hardin (Evans, Ga.) and Quaterjack, the 12-year-old Brandenburg gelding she owns with Kara Hardin, Kasey Hardin, and Rachel Bryant, placed second with 72.708%, while Michele Bandinu (Santa Barbara, Calif.) took third on his eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding Soulman 13 with a score of 67.042%. View the Grade IV FEI Freestyle Test results.
In the Grade III FEI Freestyle Test, Riley Garrett (Chester Springs, Pa.) and her 14-year-old Thoroughbred-cross gelding Piston performed a lovely test with energy and grace, winning the class with a score of 69.778%. Garrett also earned the 2017 Lloyd Landkamer Sportsmanship Award, nominated by the judges for showing integrity, honor, courage, and sportsmanship in the spirt of competition. Meghan Benge (Windsor, S.C.) and her 10-year-old Welsh Pony mare Zoey earned second with 65.667%. View the Grade III FEI Freestyle Test results.
Oakleaf and stallion Niekele Fan Busentiz continued their winning streak, claiming the Grade II Freestyle Test with a score of 71.389%. Canada’s Sharon Buffitt and Elektra II placed second with 67.556%, while Canada’s Jason Surnoski and Bella de la Noche went third with 61.500%. View the Grade II FEI Freestyle Test results.
McIntosh and Heros rose to the top, winning the Grade I FEI Freestyle test with a 71.833%. Canada’s Jody Schloss and Lieutenant Lobin and Winona Hartvikson and Ultimo placed second and third, respectively, with scores of 71.278% and 70.778%.
While Dashers Destiny and Kim Decker (Shippensburg, Pa.) did not compete in the 2017 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships sponsored by Deloitte, there was a special presentation in honor of Dashers Destiny’s retirement from international competition. Decker and Paul and Donna Decker’s 20-year-old Hanoverian gelding have had a long and very special relationship. Not only did they represent the United States in the 2010 Alltech® FEI World Equestrian Games™, but they also have competed in over 100 tests together, a beautiful reminder of the bond between horse and human.
Watch the US Equestrian Learning Center video to learn more about para-equestrian dressage.